Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday Inspirations November 9, 2008

In October of 1978 Neal A. Maxwell, a late modern day apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed the Mormons), gave an address to the students at Brigham Young University (BYU). It was election time back then as well. Though I don’t know what the issues were back then, from his words we can glean there was a moral issue at stake, just as there was now in 2008.

His words were of such import they were printed the next February in the Ensign Magazine (published by the Mormon Church for it’s adult members). I’d like to share them with you today. Though I’ll be putting in a few portions of the first part of his talk, I’ll copy the link to his talk in its’ entirety at the end of my post.

If you are a careful student of the statements of the modern prophets, you will have noticed that with rare exceptions – especially when the First Presidency has spoken out – the concerns expressed have been over moral issues, not issues between political parties. The declarations are about principles, not people; and causes, not candidates.

Make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters, in the months and years ahead, events are likely to require each member to decide whether or not he will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions (1 Kgs. 18:21).

President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had “never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the church even though it crossed my social, professional or political life” (In Conference Report, Apr. 1941, p.123). This is a hard doctrine, but it is a particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ!

We are now entering a time of incredible ironies. Let us cite but one of these ironies which is yet in its subtle stages: We will see a maximum, if indirect, effort made to establish irreligion as the state religion. It is actually a new form of paganism which uses the carefully preserved and cultivated freedoms of western civilization to shrink from freedom, even as it rejects the value essence of our rich Judeo-Christian heritage…

Your discipleship may see the time when such religious convictions are discounted. M.J. Sobran…said, “A religious conviction is now a second-class conviction, expected to step deferentially to the back of the secular bus, and not to get uppity about it” (Human Life Review, Summer 1978, pp. 58-59).

This new irreligious imperialism seeks to disallow certain opinions simply because those opinions grow out of religious convictions. Resistance to abortions will be seen as primitive. Concern over the institution ofthe family will be viewed as untrendy and unenlightened (emphasis added).

In its mildest form, irreligion will merely be condescending toward those who hold to traditional Judeo-Christian values. In its more harsh forms, as is always the case with those whose dogmatism is blinding, the secular church will do what it can to reduce the influence of those who still worry over standards such as those in the Ten Commandments. It is always such an easy step from dogmatism to unfair play – especially so when the dogmatists believe themselves to be dealing with primitive people who do not know what is best for them – the secular ‘bureaucrats’ burden, you see.

…There is occurring a discounting of religiously based opinions… If people, however, are not permitted to advocate, to assert, and to bring to bear, in every legitimate way, the opinions and views they hold which grow out of their religious convictions, what manner of men and women would we be?

Our founding fathers did not wish to have a state church established nor to have a particular religion favored by government. They wanted religion to be free to make its own way. But neither did they intend to have irreligion made into a favored state church.

Notice the terrible irony if this trend were to continue. When the secular church goes after its heretics, where are the sanctuaries? To what landfalls and Plymouth Rocks can future pilgrims go?

If we let come into being a secular church which is shorn of traditional and divine values, where shall we go for inspiration in the crises of tomorrow? Can we appeal to the rightness of a specific regulation to sustain us in our hour of need? Will we be able to seek shelter under a First Amendment which by then may have been twisted to favor irreligion? Will we be able to rely for counterforce on value education aided in school systems which are increasingly secularized? And if our governments and schools were to fail us, would we be able to fall back upon and rely upon the institution of the family, when so many secular movements seek to shred it?

It may well be that as our time comes to “suffer shame for his name” (Acts 5:41), some of the that special stress will grow out of that portion of discipleship which involves citizenship. Remember, as Nephi and Jacob said, we must learn to endure “the crosses of the world” and yet to despise “the shame of it” (2 Nephi 9:18; Jacob 1:8). To go on clinging to the iron rod in spite of the mockery and scorn that flow at us from the multitudes in that great and spacious building seen by Father Lehi, which is the “pride of the world” (1 Nephi 11:36) – is to disregard the shame of the world. Parenthetically, why, really why, do the disbelievers who line that spacious building watch so intently what the believers are doing? (See 1 Nephi 8:33.)

...If the challenge of the secular church becomes very real, let us, as in all other relationships, be principled but pleasant. Let us be perceptive without being pompous. Let us have integrity and not write checks with our tongues which our conduct cannot cash.

Before the ultimate victory of the forces of righteousness, some skirmishes will be lost. Even in these, however, let us leave a record so that the choices are clear, letting others do as they will in the face of prophetic counsel.

There will also be times, happily, when a minor defeat seems probable, but others will step forward, having been rallied to rightness by what we do. We will know the joy, on occasion, of having awakened a slumbering majority of the decent people of all races and creeds which was, till then, unconscious of itself.

Jesus said that when the fig trees put forth their leaves, “summer is night” (Matthew 24:32). Thus warned that summer is upon us, let us not then complain of the heat!

Can you feel the power of these words? Can you see the relevance of something spoken 30 years ago to what has occurred within these last few weeks? I am, of course, speaking on the proposition against gay marriage.

Even within the walls of the Mormon Church has there been dissent. More often than not those members who were against the proposition had close friends or family members who have chosen the homosexual lifestyle. Their hearts have been in a struggle between loving, supporting, and showing tolerance (as we’ve been taught to do by our Church leaders), and following those they have sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators.

There comes a time in many lives when they have to make a decision between the two. They have to look into their hearts, do some serious fasting, praying, and studying in order to decide whether or not they truly have a testimony – not just of the Church, but of God’s will.

Not once in the Old or New Testaments, nor in the Book of Mormon for those who believe it to be another testament of Jesus Christ, has the Lord ever condoned the act of homosexuality. Not once.

But does this mean we shouldn’t be supportive of those who have chosen this lifestyle? Does it mean the activity in passing proposition 8 by the Mormon Church (and many other Churches and organizations) is their way of coming out against an entire people? I don't believe this to be true.

“Hate the sin, not the sinner.” We’ve heard it many times. When I earnestly prayed that the proposition would go through, I wasn’t praying against those who have chosen this lifestyle. I was praying against an act I believe is wrong, even if we all have the right to choose it. I was praying that marriage between a man and a woman, something God has told us again and again is of Him, would be strengthened.

The crazy thing is, I understand where those who are homosexual are coming from. I can see how this would seem hurtful, demeaning, discriminating, and unenlightened. A part of me aches for those who are most affected by this. Yet I cannot deny that I have a firm and abiding testimony that God leads my Church through a prophet, and this prophet has told us this is not what God wants. I believe His hand has touched the hearts of other religious leaders, helping them to understand the same.

Yet those who cry and protest for us to understand and accept them as they are, to give them rights we "straight" couples have, seem to have no tolerance, nor understanding, nor acceptance for our own beliefs. They carry signs and willingly frighten people in their attempts to make us more tolerant – something they cannot seem to do themselves. I can’t begin to tell you how upset I’ve felt when hearing about their acts of intolerance against those they are desperately trying to find acceptance with.

If only they could understand it is not them we are against, it is the sanctity of marriage as described by God that we are for. Had the proposition passed, any church that refused to perform a marriage between two men or two women could have been brought under state law. They could have been sued. Marriage by religious leaders could have been taken away altogether. So much more was at stake than a lifestyle choice.

For those who have stuck around through what (on Word) has turned out to be almost four full pages of writing, I thank you. I hope something in Elder Maxwell’s words, or my own, have touched and/or softened your hearts, has clarified in your mind words you couldn’t put together yourself, or has strengthened that which you already knew. I also hope you know every word of this was written with great and abiding love.

~ Here is the link to Elder Maxwell's talk: A More Determined Discipleship

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